Whenever firefighters or other emergency personnel go out they're putting their lives on the line and when it happens at night or in bad weather, the danger is compounded.

When we learned from police that last Tuesday's fire at the Hometown Walmart was intentionally set it made us sick. A fire in a large facility with people inside during a snowstorm has all the ingredients for major disaster.

First, shoppers and store employees had to flee to the parking lot in the snow, wind and freezing temperatures. We all know how difficult and dangerous it can be to just move around outside during the height of a storm.

Then there's the risk to the emergency responders. Although they are well trained, driving any vehicle, let alone large fire equipment on untreated roads in bad weather, is extremely hazardous. When setting up to battle a building or dwelling fire in town during wintry weather, just trying to get to and dig out hydrants can be an ordeal.

Freezing water is another big challenge to winter firefighting. Keeping the water circulating enough to prevent it from freezing is vital but then there's the threat of more ice developing from the backsplash of water on the ladders and other equipment. Heavy ice also increases the threat of collapse with structures.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured or killed in the Hometown fire. That wasn't the case during an arson fire last month in New Albany, Indiana when 18-year old Cody Cashion, who was engaged in a property dispute with neighbors, fired a flare into the home of one of the residents.

The fire caused the smoke inhalation deaths of three small children. A fourth child was rescued by firefighters but suffered serious respiratory injury. The teen faces three counts of felony murder and arson causing serious bodily injury.

The teen said he didn't know there were young children asleep inside the home. Try explaining that to the family of the four small victims.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com